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How To Warm Up Your Dog For Exercise

We are all told to make sure we warm up before exercising, but did you know that this doesn’t only apply to humans? Dogs also need to warm up to prepare them for the activity ahead and to reduce the risk of injury. This handy guide from Burns Pet Nutrition will show you exactly how to warm up your dog before their run. We’ll also share with you how to cool them down after.

Your Warm Up  

Make sure you get yourself warmed up first, without your dog, so you can concentrate on yourself without having to think about what they’re doing.

Your Dog’s Warm Up 

Now you can start to warm up your dog, and believe it or not, the best way to start is by stroking them! 

Stroke Your Dog  

Promote blood flow to your dog’s main muscle groups by stroking them. Start from the neck and work down and along their body. Remember to get all of the important spots like their pectorals (in between their front legs) and glutes (the tops of their back legs). Do this gently, by using an even pressured, repetitive stroking motion towards the heart. This will create an invigorating blood flow to those important areas. 

Pro Tip: This can be done before leaving the house. Extra points if you’ve got a dog that will stay still long enough!

Enjoy a 5 – 10 Minute Walk  

Once you’ve stroked your dog, you can move on to a 5 – 10 minute walk, slowly increasing your speed as you go. You could add this in at the start of your running route or, if you’re at the start of a course,  try walking in large figure 8’s instead. 

Not only is this a great way to ease yourself and your dog into a walk or run, but it’s also a great way to mentally calm and focus your dog as well. Let them sniff and do any business they need to do. Towards the end of the warm-up, perhaps move into a quicker walk or jog, depending on your dog’s fitness level and experience.

Dog Warm-up Stretches 

Note: This Might Require Some Training First! 

Nose to hip

  • Have your dog stand in front of your legs, sideways on, so their rib cage is against your shins (or thighs for big-dog owners!). 
  • Place one hand on the side of their rib cage that is facing away from you. Using a treat, lure their nose to touch their hip (or as close as they can get). The hand on their side shouldn’t be too firm, just enough to discourage them from turning their whole body round. 
  • Repeat 2x on each side.

Head up

  • In the same position against your legs, use a treat to lure their head up and forward, to give them a nice neck stretch.
  • Repeat 3 x times, slowly and calmly with a few seconds rest in between each.


  • This might require a bit of prior training. Face your dog head on while they are standing. Then put a treat in between their front legs and back towards their chest. Mark and reward when they lower the front of their body down. Be quick as they will likely put their whole body into a down at first! Keep working on it until they are offering a play-bow position. 
  • Repeat the bow 3 x times for your warm up, holding for 5 seconds if possible with a few seconds in between each.


  • These may also require some prior training but fairly straightforward – lure your dog round in a circle and reward once they have done the full 360. Repeat and add in a cue word. 
  • These are great for assessing your dog’s flexibility 
  • Repeat 2 x times each side

Now your dog should be mentally and physically ready for their run! Always make sure you keep an eye on your dog throughout the activity for any signs of discomfort, and to check if they need a break. We need to advocate for them as many dogs would go until they dropped!

Cool down

It’s important not to come to a sudden dead stop at the end of your run or activity, but to slow down and then continue to walk around with your dog to bring their breathing back to normal (they should be breathing normally before they get in a car to go home). 

Pro Tip: Use this time to look for any signs of injury or discomfort.

Repeating the spin exercise above can help to maintain flexibility so they don’t stiffen up, and can highlight to you whether there is any discomfort one side more than another. 

Make sure to offer them a small drink once they have calmed down enough, but they should not have a meal for at least an hour. 

Super Speedy Summary: 

  • Warm Up Yourself 
  • Stroke Your Dog
  • 5-10 Minute Walk
  • Warm-Up Stretches 
  • Don’t Forget to Cool Down!

Are You Taking Part In Tail Wag To 5K?

Studies have shown, that exercise is easier to stick to when you have a friend to do it with. Well, there is no better friend than your dog! We’ve teamed up with Burns Pet Nutrition to create a FREE exercise programme called Tail Wag To 5K. This programme will gradually help you and your dog to run a 5K with your pooch in just 10-12 weeks. In conjunction with human running experts RunWales and canicross experts Paw Runner, our tail-wagging programme has been carefully created for beginners; considering the health of both human and hound throughout. 


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